Beyond the countless perks of a Florida lifestyle, an undeniable draw for the sporting crowd is an outdoor season that lasts year round. With the freedom for sunshine sports any month of the year, these Lakewood Ranch locations host everything from professional soccer matches to championship golf tournaments. As either a player or spectator, you can get your sport fix somewhere on this list. 

Sarasota Surge Rugby Club

America might be the land of the free and the home of football, but its worldly cousin Rugby has made its way over and is taking Lakewood Ranch and the states by storm. Founded in 2010 by a group of American and international rugby players, the Sarasota Surge Rugby Club aims to fill a sports gap in the area. President Gary Jones, who grew up in England, missed the club atmosphere that didn’t seem to exist in typical US sports. “Rugby teams are like a family. It’s our ethos. We focus on integrity and honor above all else and try to foster players in an all-inclusive environment. We are more grassroots than formal but with strict discipline in our teaching and playing.” The 501(c)(3) nonprofit makes sports accessible to everyone with “every penny donated going directly back into the youth program.”

In affluent Lakewood Ranch, this helps develop players of every background and fosters positive impact beyond just those who can afford to play other team sports. With many families and players turning away from traditional tackle football, rugby is a great alternative. Teamwork and sportsmanship are at the core of rugby’s foundational teachings, and the Sarasota Surge Rugby Club focuses on this immensely during their season September through April. A men’s league along with an under eight and under 19 team help to keep up the club. As Gary notes, “You have parents who can’t get their kids out of bed for anything. But they join rugby and have a community and suddenly they’re up at 8am on a Saturday morning to go pull weeds on club days.”  7401 University Parkway, Bradenton; 941-720-1717;

Lakewood Ranch Pickleball Club 

With close to 500 members, the Lakewood Ranch Pickleball Club shows no signs of slowing down. Every morning, there are games at the Lakewood Ranch High School that has five pickleball outdoor courts, and with stadium lights, both those retired and at work have opportunities to play. LWR Pickleball Club President Bob Haskin remarks how the club just seems to grow and grow. “We probably get three to four new people joining a week. We recently started a round-robin-style play for all different skill levels and we’re starting an open league where people select a partner and can play whenever suits them. Freelance play if you will.” With eight teams in total, this large co-ed sport is great for everyone from novice to beginner. The club also offers clinics and private lessons for those wanting to improve their game.

Premier Sports Campus Lakewood Ranch

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch built the Premier Sports Campus in 2011 with the hopes of showcasing Lakewood Ranch. With hundreds of players and their families coming through the campus to play various sports, executive director Elliot Falcione noted how they hoped “people would fall in love with the Lakewood Ranch way of life and come here to build a home or relocate their business.” Studies show that first-time visitors return at a 94 percent rate within one year. Impressive results for moms and dads bringing their kids down for a weekend sports game on one of the campus’s nearly 250 acres of 23 mixed-use FIFA-regulation fields. From youth sports to professional tournaments athletes from around the city, state and county visit the turf year-round. The campus is available for both league games and practices on beautiful fields sodded with Celebration turf, unique for its drought resistance, its aid in injury recovery and impressive wear tolerance. Eight fields feature lights for night games, and since this is Florida, the campus is outfitted with 65,000 feet of underground irrigation for flood prevention during heavy rains. Upcoming events include The Dimitri Cup (soccer), two Ultimate Long Drive Championships (golf), and a high school Lacrosse Against Leukemia benefit preseason. To put into perspective the huge economic impact the Premier Sports Campus has had on the area, Falcione breaks it down: “Of the 41 tournaments played at the campus last year, we helped generate 40,000 booked hotel rooms, which added approximately $43 million into Manatee County.”  5895 Post Blvd., Lakewood Ranch, 941-757-1582.

Sarasota Polo Club

Back in 1922, the Uihlein family of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company bought a timber ranch in Sarasota filled with cowboys who would play amateur polo in their free time. Outfitted in makeshift equipment, the ranch hands who fell off their horses had to buy beers for the winners. These days, “what began as the first development in Lakewood Ranch has evolved from knock-around ‘Cowboy Polo’ into one of the largest and most dedicated polo communities in the world,” says Ron Trytek of Sarasota Polo. Now it’s a “premier luxury sporting destination,” featuring more than 40 private equestrian estates, seven Bermuda grass fields, a half-mile horse track and boarding facilities for 70-plus horses. Hosting top players from around the world and nationally, the 2021 season has public matches every Sunday at 1pm through April 25. Gates open at 10am. Beyond offering polo as a spectator sport, the Sarasota Polo Club also offers lessons. Classes are available throughout the week and provide new riders with equipment and, of course, the most important part—a horse. Additionally, a more intensive Polo School program allows novice riders to sign up for a 10-week course. Open to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, this unique and exciting opportunity gives curious learners a personally tailored experience. The oldest team sport in the world, more than 2,500 years old, Ron Trytek sums up this incredible sport: “As both the sport of kings and the fastest game on four feet, there is nothing else like it. Polo is an exhilarating exhibition of teamwork and coordination between horse and rider.”  8201 Polo Club Ln., Lakewood Ranch, 941-907-0000.

Bradenton Sarasota Ultimate Frisbee 

If you’re in the mood for something a little outside the box, Ultimate Frisbee provides a sporty outlet with a unique spin. Played with the plastic neon disc we all knew as kids, this game gets groups together for fun and sportsmanship that doesn’t require years of training. Located behind the Lakewood Ranch High School, the Ultimate Frisbee group is open for all levels. A Facebook group operates as the players main form of communication and allows anyone to join in on the fun. Simply check the page each week to see when pickup games have been planned and like or comment if you want to join. Most games run on Saturday or Sunday at 3pm.  5490 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton.  LL

Images courtesy of sports groups.